Meet some of the co-operatives making the world a more equal place…
Ethnicity | Italy
In Italy, Zajedno Cooperativa is a story of craft skills, Roma women and a fight for integration.
In 2005, the Insieme Zajedno Association set up the Laboratorio Manufatti Donne Rom, a micro credit and training project for Bosniac women of Roma origin, specialising in tailoring and handcrafts. The aim was to provide an opportunity for these women, living in Italy, to gain independent employment while also working on integration between the Roma and Italian cultures.
In the Roma language, Zajedno means ‘together’, and in 2012 the multicultural Zajedno Coop was formed by Roma women, the association and workshop educators.
The enterprise now has a workshop in Rome where crafts and clothes, including childrenswear and skirts which combine traditional Roma and Italian designs, are made and sold.
As well as promoting equality for Roma, the co-op also explores inclusivity through a series of fabric books made for children with visual impairments. Stories in the books are written in braille, then illustrated with sewn, textured representations of the story, including puppets. In 2011, Zajedno’s book Henry Jack won the Typhlo and Tactus international prize for tactile publishing.
LGBTQ | Argentina
An Argentinian a textile co-operative is promoting equality and integration of the country’s LGBTQ community.
Estilo Diversa, which was set up in November 2010, has 18 members that represent all sexual identities, and is the first of its kind in Latin America.
The co-operative works to increase integration of the LGBTQ community not only professionally, by providing textile training and employment, but also socially, by running different events.
Estilo Diversa works with the Ministry for Diversity of Argentina on a number of cultural projects designed to promote LGBTQ integration. Recently, the co-op showed a fashion collection at a dance event, Dance for Diversity, an initiative of the ministry.
Members of the co-operative created over 800 items of clothing for the shows, which took place throughout September – and they will be designing garments for contestants in the Miss Latin-American trans competition.
They have also been involved in a micro-credit programme that helped provide small loans to different co-op businesses.
The co-operative was fully financed by the state, which is also their main customer. Soledad Pilar Gomes, president of the co-operative, explained why the co-op was different from other enterprises.
“It’s a co-operative that is different because it includes people with all sexual identities, including hetero. On the other hand it is a space of fulfilment, which encourages training, discussion, team spirit and co-operation in their most genuine nature.
“Those that come to work for Estilo Diversa LGBT not only do this to get employed, but also because they come with an emotional burden of having been expelled from all places.”
In November the co-operative showcased a new collection, where it will introduce its brand, including a pair of innovative shoes especially designed for transgender people.
Women | Morocco
In Morocco, the argan tree is prized for its precious oil, extracted from argan nuts.
Argan oil is used extensively in Moroccan cuisine and for skin care. Over the last 20 years it has also attracted an international market, which has been the catalyst for the development of several women’s worker co-ops, which produce the oil while improving women’s social conditions.
These co-operatives present opportunities for steady independent incomes in good working environments, empowering women, especially in Berber communities. In addition, these co-ops have been involved in reforestation projects to protect argan forests from desertification, and, as a consequence, the women’s jobs too.
Coopérative féminine Ajdig N’Targuinine, whose name means Flower of the Argan Tree, was established in 2005 in Agadir. In addition to oil production, it has implemented a literacy and management programme, and train women to know their wider social and employment rights.
LGBTQ | UK
Respect is the Co-operative Group’s inclusive lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) network, created with the vision to “build an inclusive society that celebrates all employees’ differences”.
As well as offering social networking and development opportunities for its members, the network spearheaded the Group’s support of equal marriage, and has supported LGBTQ events and initiatives around the UK.
Set up in 2010, the network has hosted over 110 events, and publishes Respect magazine for members every two months. Over 900
Co-operative Group employees are members of the network, and its work to provide support and promote equality within the workplace has earned the Group widespread recognition from LGBTQ campaigning and lobbying groups, including the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, the Albert Kennedy Trust and the European Diversity Awards.
In 2014, Stonewall placed the Group third overall in its top 100 Workplace Equality Index, an annual benchmarking exercise that measures the top 100 employers for LGBT and the efforts to fight against discrimination in the workplace. The Group was the only retailer to feature in the top 100, and the first to make it into the top 10.
Disability | Spain
In Spain, a worker co-operative is helping increase the independence of people with different learning difficulties and disabilities.
Altavoz was set up in March 2013 by Raquel Cárcamo, Oscar Pueyo and Esther Muñoz (right), with help and financial support from FEAPS, a confederation that works to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
Having disabilities themselves, the founding members developed ideas of how to provide services specifically tailored for the needs of disabled people. They provide training in terms of rights and accessibility and also offer classes in easy reading.
Throughout 2013, Altavoz organised 54 talks and training courses for people with different learning difficulties and intellectual disabilities.
The co-operative is also working to improve facilities for disabled people within certain buildings, while another important aspect is working to inform disabled people about potential abuses, enabling them to recognise whether they had been victims of an abuse, and showing how to prevent this.
Along with the three founding members, the co-op includes two social workers and a network of collaborators. Their hope is that Altavoz will inspire others to launch similar projects.
In this article
- Albert Kennedy Trust
- Argan oil
- Esther Muñoz
- European Diversity Awards
- Henry Jack
- Insieme Zajedno Association
- Latin America
- Lesbian and Gay Foundation
- Ministry for Diversity of Argentina
- Oscar Pueyo
- Raquel Cárcamo
- social networking
- Soledad Pilar Gomes
- North America
- United Kingdom
- Top Stories